From Yolanda to Ruby: an ultimatum for justice

People Surge Alliance for Yolanda (Haiyan) survivors PRESS STATEMENT

09 December 2014

We, survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), are just beginning to pick up the pieces of what Super Typhoon Ruby (Hagupit) has left of our lives. ‘Ruby’ has brought and continues to bring torrential rainfall, winds, and storm surges as it made landfall once again on the Eastern VIsayas region, and as it continues to slowly traverse the country.

But Ruby’s extremely sluggish movement coupled with its Yolanda-like breadth resulted in the greater exposure of more provinces and regions in Central Philippines—including all areas affected by Yolanda—to its disastrous impacts. As of December 8, 2014, more than a million Filipinos or over 230,000 families have already been affected by Ruby. More than 30 million people are expected to be affected across the country. An initial body count from the Philippine Red Cross pegs at least 23 deaths in the Eastern Samar province alone, where Ruby first made landfall.

The tale of the two storms, Yolanda and Ruby, are inextricably linked. It has been more than a year since Yolanda’s landfall, a year fraught with continuing social, economic, and environmental injustices as our national government under President Noynoy Aquino continued to abdicate its mandate to address the needs and rights of affected communities. And then came Ruby.

Lessons seem to have remained unlearned as that brand of criminal negligence continued during Ruby: whereas government’s weather scientists have effectively predicted the typhoon’s pathway and forewarned the public, and the majority of the communities have proactively evacuated from hazardous areas, government has been unable to provide sufficient and safe evacuation centers. Thousands are reported to have searched for alternative evacuation sites or forced to settle in unsafe sites, as designated evacuation centers were overflowing. Some declared evacuation centers were actually disaster-prone areas, and initial reports reveal how an evacuation center was even destroyed by Ruby’s violent winds in Eastern Samar province.

Despite once again bragging of prepositioned goods, the Aquino government was still unable to adequately preposition food, water and other emergency needs of residents in evacuation centers, leaving hundreds of thousands to go hungry. The callous Aquino government instead focused its deployment of police and soldiers to guarding malls and big business establishments from ‘looting.’

Aquino’s parroting of the United Nations’ ‘build back better’ principle turns out to be an empty promise: while only one percent of post-Yolanda shelter needs have been provided for by the Aquino administration, leaving thousands of families in tent cities and overpriced bunk houses, the temporary shelters provided by the Aquino government were easily obliterated during Ruby’s impact.

The situation has yet to entirely unfold. But in the wake of Ruby here in Eastern Visayas, it seems the injustices circa Yolanda will inescapably continue. Even now, the Aquino administration is intent on downplaying the impacts, claiming credit where the people, non-government organizations, and in some cases local governments, did all the work to prepare.

Ruby, like Yolanda and other major typhoon disasters before it, is part of the growing narrative of the worsening crisis of climate change in the Philippines. As such, the irony is not lost on us when the country delegation to the UN Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru dropped chief negotiator Naderev ‘Yeb’ Sano, similar to the way the national government dropped then-negotiator Bernarditas Muller back in the 2009 Climate Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Sano, like Muller before him, has been a critical voice during the past COPs demanding ambitious and binding targets for greenhouse gas emissions cuts, as well as a reparations mechanism that will hold leading polluter countries accountable to climate-vulnerable nations such as the Philippines.

That our negotiators soon after announced the country’s pull out of from the Like-Minded Developing Countries bloc, a group of countries asserting sovereignty and demanding greater accountability from developed countries in the climate negotiations, is no coincidence. That more fossil fuel power plants are in the pipeline vis-a-vis Aquino’s various energy policies, and more development aggression projects that aggravate our people’s climate vulnerabilities are plundering our lands, complete the picture where the Aquino government stands in the lines drawn in the climate negotiations.

Amidst worsening disasters in the Philippines, our hope lies in the self-reliant and collective efforts of our fellow disaster survivors alongside various social movements to build resilient communities and to claim justice from a criminally negligent government. We call on all humanitarian responses to pour into the various grassroots initiatives across Ruby-affected communities, and not through the corrupt hands of the Aquino government.

In the face of the global climate crisis, we ask for solidarity from the peoples of the world, not only to resolutely stand for climate-vulnerable communities in the climate conference negotiations, but most importantly to win victories outside of it, across all fronts of peoples’ struggles, demanding for social, environmental, economic, and climate justice up to system change across the globe.

Even in these trying times, our thoughts go out to our compatriots from Mindanao battling big mining and militarization, to our comrades who are blockading the Keystone XL Pipeline in North America, and to the people of Cuba and Venezuela leading by example in responding to disasters and regulating their energy industry.

Let this be an ultimatum to the Aquino government and the world’s leaders, and let this also be a promise to our fellow survivors, and to our fellow people struggling to win back the world polluters and plunderers: we will continue to rise up and struggle for justice, hanggang tagumpay.#

Reference: Dr. Efleda K. Bautista, Chairperson, People Surge – Alliance for Yolanda survivors – 09394781340

People Surge Alliance for Yolanda (Haiyan) survivors
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